–Dan Kelly, Attorney

It has been some time since we have visited AlphaWatch, and today we turn our attention to an ad I spied on ESPN’s website this week:

This takes me back to law school and a Latin phrase common in legal parlance, res ipsa loquitur, which is commonly translated, “the thing speaks for itself.”  The legal principle arises in negligence cases, for instance, when a surgeon leaves a sponge or other tool inside of a patient after a surgery.  That sort of thing does not happen without someone having dropped the ball.  Some overzealous lawyers, though, stretch the phrase res ipsa loquitur beyond its proper meaning, prompting others to expand, “res ipsa loquitur, sed quid in infernos dicet?”  (“The thing speaks for itself, but what in the hell is it saying?”)

So, ESPN is now getting aboard the bandwagon that has not worked very well for Gatorade, and even has Gatorade aboard as a “founding partner.”  (Could be a case of the blind leading the blind.)  Standing alone, given the willowy curves of the W, I first thought that this might have been a roll-out for ESPN W for “women,” but then I spied this banner ad:

Wait a minute.  ESPN “Within”?  Maybe an amateur site?  Don’t know.  At this point, I’ve had to think waaay too much for being on the ESPN site, and I’m off clicking somewhere else.  They had about 3-5 seconds to hook me, and I just ended up confused.  (And it looks like my initial surmise was correct, but now I don’t get “because we all have an athlete within.”  Now I’m really confused.)

This is the problem with single-letter branding.  One letter says a lot, but what in the hell is it saying?

  • Randall Hull

    Gatorade, and now ESPN, prove the old maxim — No one is confused into making a decision. Except in this case the decision is to go somewhere else.
    One point I make when talking to marketing folk is don’t be too clever for your own good. The single letter trend is another marcom fad and should soon burn itself out.

  • As a marketer, I appreciate women’s initiatives, but the “because we all have an athlete within” is a bit insulting. Might as well say “even women can be athletes.” Yikes. Not only is the single-letter brand confusing, but the message (the reason for having a separate brand) may be off-putting for their intended targets.